When you need a sponsor

Having a Sponsor is instrumental in helping you move up the ladder

If you ask around, you are likely to find out that having a sponsor at the right time has been instrumental in the career progression of the executives of today.

What is the difference between a mentor, a coach and a sponsor you would say? Well, succinctly; a coach listens to you, a mentor advises you, and a sponsor talks about and acts for you. (https://centerstonesearch.com/difference-between-a-coach-a-mentor-and-a-sponsor/)

The definition in the above-mentioned article is well written, and I have copied it here: 

A sponsor is a leader who is a highly regarded influencer operating in circles that exceed your own. Not always known to you, these executives are able to direct and shape what is happening within your career orbit. They generally have enough exposure to you over time through either those who report to them or a moment when your paths crossed. These leaders have developed a perception of you and have the influence to act as an agent of sorts in mentioning your name and endorsing your advancement, access to assignments, and ultimately your promotability. Sponsors are typically senior to you and have a different sphere of influence. And while, yes, they could be someone you report to (or have reported to at some point in your career), they could also be a Board Director who is watching from afar, an industry leader, or someone who can influence with a nod.

Centrestone Executive Search and Consulting

A sponsor will have the power to put you forward for new opportunities beyond where your line manager can go. They are often key to crucial promotions and career development opportunities. For instance, to make the jump from a technical to a senior leadership position. Especially when you have become a “safe pair of hands”, too valuable to be moved from your current role, at least for the moment, according to your boss and line manager. You will need someone who can cut through these perceptions and make the move happen, if they (and you) feel the opportunity is right for you.

However, sponsors do not come up via mentoring or coaching programmes. And you may not even be consciously aware of them. How do you get one?

I found one of my sponsors by sheer coincidence; I had taken on a leadership role in a cross-company engagement project. The work, and its remarkable and very noticeable progress, enhanced my visibility both in and outside my company.

The person who ended up becoming my sponsor, led the other company’s side of negotiations at the time. A couple of years later this person accepted an executive position in a company I had recently joined, and remembering me from our shared past, he put my name forward for a great opportunity.

I had by then also taken on a number of additional roles outside of my normal role inside my new company, ensuring my name was at least known amongst the senior leadership team. So when my name was put forward, it was more of a “why hadn’t we thought of that” instead of a “who?” moment.

So, take on opportunities that have the possibility of making you more visible.

Then make sure you do great work, and also make sure people know about it. Network, and become known for the value you contribute to the company, step out, give presentations, write a paper, make sure people hear about what you have done!

You are ultimately the only one in charge of your career, take it serious and do make sure others know what you do, don’t assume just quietly doing good work will lead to greater opportunities.

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